February 2005

CBF reaching internationals in Toronto : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

February 25 2005 by Carla Wynn

CBF reaching internationals in Toronto : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

CBF reaching internationals in Toronto

By Carla Wynn
CBF Communications

TORONTO - As a public school volunteer, Kim Wyatt was just helping a girl with math problems. But when the new Pakistani immigrant started improving her math skills, she asked Wyatt to meet her mother, who was recently widowed.

Wyatt's practical help opened the door for much more, as the family accepted Wyatt's invitation to a church Christmas party. "She experienced many firsts that evening: Christmas carols and the genuineness of Christ's love shared over hot chocolate," said Wyatt, a North Carolina native who is one of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's Global Missions field personnel serving with her husband, Marc, in Toronto.

As strategic catalysts for ministry among internationals, the Wyatts network and partner with local organizations and Christian ministries to meet the needs of immigrants and internationals. "We are networkers, partnership facilitators and catalysts for building up the influence and scope of God's kingdom in our area and beyond via our teammates in North America and Europe," said Marc, who is also from North Carolina.

INVITATION - Students at Matt and Michelle Norman's home in Toronto help with invitations to a class for internationals.
Some of those teammates are fellow North Carolina natives Matt and Michelle Norman, who work among international students in Toronto through CBF's Global Service Corps. Through partnership with Christian student clubs, the Normans help launch programs that will meet needs of international students and their families.

The Wyatts and Normans are part of CBF's internationals cluster - a group of CBF field personnel who minister to people living far from their homelands. The internationals cluster is highlighted as part of MissionConnect, the spring emphasis of the 2004-2005 CBF Offering for Global Missions.

MissionConnect invites churches and individuals to partner with the internationals cluster by providing financial support, tangible goods for their ministries and personal involvement. Based on 1 Corinthians 3:9, this year's offering theme is "Together - Being the Presence of Christ." The goal is $6.1 million with a challenge goal of $6.3 million.

The Normans and Wyatts recently helped form the Fellowship's Internationals Ministry Network, which serves as a way to brainstorm ministry ideas and encourage those ministering to internationals, Matt said. The network sponsors an online forum at www.connectglobally.org.

In June, the Normans will move to Raleigh where they will begin work as coordinators of the network. One of the emphases they will spearhead is "Bring it Home," which challenges international missions trip participants to impact internationals in their hometowns when they return. "Missions is not only about going but also about being in your own community," Michelle said.

One church implementing "Bring it Home" is Woodhaven Baptist Church in Apex. As the Norman's home church, Woodhaven has supported them throughout their ministry term. Inspired by the Normans, the church adopted a Muslim refugee family in the Raleigh area, helping them find a place to live, a car and other necessities. "Not only were we trying to support the Normans, we were trying to look at international needs at home," said Woodhaven pastor Jack Watson.

The Normans and the Wyatts hope to spread "Bring it Home" to more local churches. As the Normans develop the ministry network, they are seeking ministry ideas to share with internationals ministries. Ministry ideas can be e-mailed to mmnorman@thefellowship.info.

Churches and individuals can partner with the Wyatts in ministering to refugees and immigrants by:

  • Preparing large zip lock bags as "Lesson in a Bag" kits. The bags should include a Bible or values story and simple craft idea with items needed for up to five children. The bags will be used in apartment ministry.
  • Donating a new washer/dryer for Matthew Houses, the refugee shelter.
  • Providing multiple copies of the "JESUS" film on DVD. DVDs are preferred because they contain several languages as opposed to the video.
  • Providing Chinese Mandarin-dialect Bibles and New Testaments.
  • The items should be sent to Kim and Marc Wyatt, 34 Edgewood Crescent, Toronto, Ontario M4W3A9, Canada or contact wyatt@thefellowship.info.

    For more information about the CBF Offering for Global Missions visit www.thefellowship.info, call (770) 220-1653 or e-mail ogm@thefellowship.info.

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by Carla Wynn | with 0 comments



    Winston-Salem church supports Persian outreach : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by Carla Wynn

    Winston-Salem church supports Persian outreach : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    Winston-Salem church supports Persian outreach

    By Carla Wynn
    CBF Communications

    Through hanging Sheetrock, installing drains and driveway curbing, and painting walls, more than 120 volunteers from several churches helped build the ministry center of Persian World Outreach (PWO), a non-profit missions organization that trains Iranians and Afghans to minister among their own people.

    Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) Global Missions field personnel Mich and Pat Tosan founded PWO, which opened a multipurpose ministry center in southern New Jersey last year with the construction help of church volunteers.

    In April 2004, the building became the ministry's international headquarters "for supervising and mentoring Afghan and Iranian Christian churches and leaders in various places in the U.S. and overseas," Mich said. Translation and distribution of Christian literature will also originate from the ministry center.

    LIBRARY RESOURCES - Evelyn Benfield from Northwest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem works with Marina Saenz, a student serving on a semester missions assignment, to organize and catalog library resources at the Persian World Outreach Mission Center.
    For the seven Northwest Baptist Church members who spent Oct. 7-10 painting, digging ditches, installing drywall and organizing the PWO library, Northwest senior pastor Randy McKinney said the experience broadened their missions perspective. "We hear a lot about mission work but going and being a part of their mission connects us and motivates us to further support those who are called to give their lives to sharing the gospel," he said.

    The Winston-Salem church is connected to the Tosans through church member Ray Benfield. A former missionary in Denmark, Benfield built a relationship with Mich, then an Iranian refugee who had become a Christian. After the Tosans spoke at the church several times, "it was time to go where they were," McKinney said.

    In helping to build the ministry center, volunteers also forged a new partnership between American churches and PWO, Mich said. "This is the beginning of a partnership with American churches that could be an ongoing relationship that God could use," he said. Mitch cited future involvement possibilities that could include direct ministry with Afghans and Iranians both in the United States and internationally.

    Westwood Baptist Church in Springfield, Va., also contributed to the center's development, taking nine volunteers in October and seven in December. The church, which recently adopted the Persian Speakers Worldwide people group, is located near Washington, D.C., home of the second largest concentration of Persian speakers in the United States.

    "We can minister and reach out to them in our own community as well as globally," said Nancy Hollomon-Peede, the church's minister for community involvement.

    Because PWO spearheads Persian ministry in the church's locale, it was important for the church to support the ministry. "It's quite powerful in its ministry, sending literature and resources all over the world," Hollomon-Peede said.

    While the building is operational, there are still ideas yet to be implemented. A picnic area, sports areas and worship center are among the Tosans' future plans.

    The Tosans founded PWO in 1997. New staff was added last year. Doug Shenton, partnership and theological education coordinator, and his wife, Becky, office manager, are CBF Global Service Corps field personnel. PWO's goal is to equip indigenous leaders to become pastors, church leaders and missionaries.

    For more information about PWO, visit www.persianwo.org. Information about the offering can be found at www.thefellowship.info, by calling (770) 220-1653 or e-mailing ogm@thefellowship.info.

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by Carla Wynn | with 0 comments



    SBC ministry brings hope to Alabama : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by Joe Westbury

    SBC ministry brings hope to Alabama : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    SBC ministry brings hope to Alabama

    By Joe Westbury
    North American Mission Board

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala., - Grace McGraw ends the tutoring lesson and says goodbye to her young student. She steps outside to get a breath of fresh air and is reminded of where her obedience to God has brought her.

    McGraw had been used to teaching school in an affluent section of Birmingham, relating to nicely dressed children of parents in a community known as Vestavia Hills. Her work environment was pleasant, grass-covered lawns and well-maintained streets.

    READ - M-POWER is the inner city ministry led by Southern Baptist missionary Grace McGraw (right) that gives at-risk children the opportunities to reverse a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.
    Today she stands outside the M-POWER Ministries building where she guides a staff providing new hope to a community riddled by social and economic problems.

    As she looks down the street she reflects how far she has come in the past five years. Her world is far more complicated with problems caused by crowded public schools where children encounter gangs, drugs are offered as a way to escape reality, and prostitution is common. Her office is now located on the edge of a high-crime community known as Woodlawn/Avondale and, she said, she may as well be serving in a Third World country due to the economic, cultural and social barriers she has had to overcome.

    McGraw and her husband, John, are among the nearly 5,200 missionaries in the United States and Canada supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. The March 6-13 Week of Prayer and North American Mission Study focuses on the theme "Answer His Call."

    For 28 years McGraw had served as a schoolteacher and had plans to keep going for two more years and round it out to 30. But at 52 years of age she felt a call to retire and, after a season of resistance and rationalization, heeded the call.

    Shortly after turning in her letter of resignation, she learned about a new ministry that would be started by the Birmingham Baptist Association and several churches. Her congregation, Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, was one of those churches partnering to bring the ministry to reality.

    When she heard the new executive director speak during a worship service at her church she could not shake the impression that she would be a part of the ministry - but as a volunteer, not as a full-time employee.

    As the ministry known as M-POWER began to take shape, McGraw realized that she was needed on a level that required more commitment. But she still resisted.

    "I didn't know anything about working in a ministry to low-income residents. I was a schoolteacher, not a social worker," she said.

    But that was exactly what the ministry needed.

    Most of the residents had no high school education, and their children were on the same track due to the overcrowded schools and lack of encouragement from adults to excel in their class work. They were torn between temptations of either selling or dealing drugs and went to school hungry in the mornings.

    "I learned to come to the office every day and just say, 'Father, show me what You want me to do today.' That taught me to be totally dependent on Him and to be sensitive to the needs that I began to see," she said.

    Today, three years later, she oversees 20 volunteers and a popular after-school tutoring ministry that gives at-risk children the opportunity to reverse the cycle of poverty and hopelessness that has characterized their lives since birth. However, the ministry does not just relate to children, but to their parents as well, through literacy missions ministry evangelism.

    A popular GED program helps parents prepare to receive their high school diplomas, and adult reading and writing classes help them to improve their literacy skills.

    "The reading level of adults and children is such that they can't even read or understand the Bible. Tutoring for both groups - with a healthy dose of Bible study - is changing that and bringing hope to Woodlawn/Avondale," McGraw said. "We are praying that the children and adults will learn about Jesus and begin to live a Christian lifestyle if they already know Him, and to accept Him if they are not a believer.

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by Joe Westbury | with 0 comments



    Resort missionary points tourists, athletes to Christ : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by Joe Westbury

    Resort missionary points tourists, athletes to Christ : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    Resort missionary points tourists, athletes to Christ

    By Joe Westbury
    North American Mission Board

    LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Derek Spain stands in the driving snow, bracing against the harsh wind and the 15-degree temperature.

    Strangers ask directions and he gives a greeting, turns and points them in the right direction.

    After four hours he feels fatigued and is glad when he gets a chance to go inside to rest for a while. It's draining work to be outside in such cold temperatures, but he understands the symbolism of what he's been doing all afternoon.

    On one level he's serving as a volunteer for the ESPN Great Outdoor games, giving directions from the backside of a parking lot. But his real calling is to point the truly lost in the right direction of a relationship with Christ.

    TRAINING - Derek Spain (second from left) ministers to Olympic hopefuls Nathan Stanley, Talia Fluger, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, Emily Hart and Deanna Burakowski who, like hundreds of others, come to Lake Placid to train.
    Spain is not a native to cold weather, having been raised in Dacula, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. And he has not always lived in New York. It was divine intervention that drew him and his wife, Kim, from a comfortable youth ministry position at Hebron Baptist Church to serve as resort missionaries for the Baptist Convention of New York.

    The couple is among nearly 5,200 missionaries in the United States and Canada supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

    "The Lord had to do a lot of things to get us ready for this move. But Kim and I learned that if God is calling you to go outside your comfort zone, you've got to be prepared to do it," he said.

    "Lake Placid is an international sports town that excels in winter sports. It hosted the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics, and averages nearly 2 million visitors each year. They have bobsled, luge, figure skating and ski jumping events all the time," he said.

    Spain wears three hats in the community: resort missionary, director of North Country Ministries (NCM), and pastor of Lake Placid Baptist Church.

    As director of NCM, he ministers in the community through servant evangelism and by providing volunteers for the sports venues.

    "Olympic athletes, who regularly train at Lake Placid, worship with us at Lake Placid Baptist Church. We also lead a Bible study on the Olympic Training Center every Tuesday night" he said.

    Servant evangelism is the most visible outreach of the NCM ministry because it provides volunteers for a variety of events.

    "Servant evangelism has provided us with a real platform to share our faith," he said. "They don't mind that we do it because we have such a gentle approach.

    "The downside is that because it's such a nontraditional approach we may never see the end result but that's OK because we are planting the seeds that one day may lead to the harvest. And, that's all that God asks of us. We will plant so others can reap."

    The Spains are partners in ministry. Kim, a full-time mother to their sons, frequently joins volunteers to help them be more effective in their outreach.

    "Kim does a wonderful job working to build relationships in the community, because relationships are the foundation of all that we do," Derek said.

    Another companion in his ministry is the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

    "The offering reminds me that Southern Baptists are participating in God's work in creative settings throughout North America, and I appreciate the trust they place in me as a steward of those gifts," Derek said. "Because of their generosity Kim and I can share the gospel in ways they could never imagine."

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - Westbury is managing editor of the Christian Index, the state Baptist paper in Georgia.)

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by Joe Westbury | with 0 comments



    Reaching the world by reaching the neighborhood : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

    Reaching the world by reaching the neighborhood : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    Reaching the world by reaching the neighborhood

    By Tony W. Cartledge
    BR Editor

    GREENSBORO - Stand on the porch looking out, and you'll see a budget motel, a defunct pawn shop and a strip club. Step inside, and you'll see the world. At Immanuel Baptist Church in Greensboro, worshipers gather within a stone's throw of the Greensboro Coliseum, and a heartbeat from China. Or Ethiopia. Or Laos.

    Immanuel's willingness to embrace all peoples goes back to the 1960s, when local consciences were pricked by more than the civil rights movement - Curry Murray, a leader in the church's international ministry, remembers how black children from nearby homes used to play basketball in the parking lot with boys who had come for RAs, a mission study group for boys. When it was time for the boys to come inside for their meeting, they couldn't understand why their friends could not join them.

    Paul Early, who served the church as pastor from 1959-1974, urged the church to move beyond segregation. He asked the deacons to officially open the doors of the church to other races. It didn't happen the first time, but eventually, the deacons agreed to crack the door and "seat" African Americans. In time, they opened the door wide to allow church membership, too.

    Edith Lunsford and her late husband Thomas - the church custodian - were the first black members. They joined in 1967. Thomas became a respected deacon, and Edith remains such a beloved part of the church that fellow member Julia Hamilton describes her as part of the "glue" that holds the church together.

    Early also instigated an outreach to international students at nearby college campuses, wanting them to feel welcome in a local church. Members provided transportation, taught English and offered an international Bible class.

    Murray has been active in the program, called "Piedmont International Fellowship," from the beginning. Some of the first participants were from Jordan. "We taught them English," he said, "and they taught us Arabic." The program not only grew, he said, but inspired statewide campus ministries to internationals through the Baptist State Convention.

    Today Immanuel Baptist shares its facilities with a large Chinese congregation, an Ethiopian church and a Laotian church. The international Bible class has members from 14 different countries.

    CHOIR - The choirs from Immanuel Baptist and the Chinese church it hosts join forces to celebrate Chinese New Year.
    On Feb. 13, the church celebrated the Chinese New Year with a joint worship service and a feast of Chinese food. Representatives from all four congregations participated, and when the worshipers were encouraged to sing "Holy Holy Holy," each in their native languages, it sounded a bit like Pentecost.

    The church is currently in search of a pastor. Larry Thompson, who helped with the international ministry in the 1960's, came out of retirement to serve as pastor in 1998, and was asked to return as interim pastor after a second retirement.

    Thompson has a passion for the ministry to internationals, but said finding a new pastor who shares that passion has proven difficult. Some potential pastors have also found the church's physical location unappealing, but church members don't back down on either issue. The church, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2006, is committed to ministry in the urban setting rather than seeking the suburbs, and wants to remain known as a church where people from every nation are welcome.

    "Immanuel" means "God with us." The happy heritage of Immanuel Baptist Church seeks to make God's presence known to all peoples in a congregation where "internationals R us."

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



    Family Bible Study lesson for March 13: Jesus: Our King : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by John Pond

    Family Bible Study lesson for March 13: Jesus: Our King : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    Family Bible Study lesson for March 13: Jesus: Our King

    By John Pond
    Focal Passages: John 12:12-15; 18:33-37; 19:1-3, 14-16

    The Jewish 'metanarrative' of exile and restoration frames the life and ministry of Jesus. He embodied the biblical story of God's relationship to the Hebrew people. Because of their rebellion and unbelief they were exiles in their own homeland. In their despair they looked to the coming of the Messiah to defeat their oppressors and bring in God's reign.

    Jesus came in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies as the promised Messiah. Unfortunately, His own people did not recognize nor understand His kingship.

    Receive the King

    John 12:12-15

    The festivities for Passover had begun. The streets and environs of Jerusalem were crowded with pilgrims celebrating this holiest of festivals. Word had spread fast of Jesus' approach and the miraculous raising of Lazarus.

    In fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, Jesus rode upon a donkey's colt, symbolic of the conqueror who comes in peace. He was met with palm branches (symbolic of national triumph) and Messianic shouts of praise - "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord - the King of Israel!" Their cries of praise, taken from the 'Hallel' psalms (Psalms 112-118), affirmed that Jesus was truly God's anointed one. They received Him as triumphant conqueror, but He came offering peace and salvation to all nations.

    Understand the King

    John 18:33-37

    "So, you are the King of the Jews, are you?" Pilate asked Jesus. He had expected to see an angry, belligerent rebel, not a harmless, inoffensive Galilean.

    As Roman governor of Judea, Pilate was responsible for the peace of the region. Aware of the volatility of false claimants for the vacant Jewish throne, he vigorously and seriously squelched any and all threats.

    However, because of his distrust of the Jewish religious leadership, Pilate privately questioned Jesus. What ensued was a redefinition of kingship. Unlike an earthly reign and kingdom, Jesus stated that His kingdom and authority were not based upon human invention or "from this world." Instead, His purpose as king was to point men to divine truth. His kingdom was of truth, His responsibility was to testify to the truth, and those who spontaneously responded to that truth peopled His kingdom.

    Pilate's response was ironically an affirmation of Jesus' kingship - "So then, it is a king that you are!" Thus, the kingship, which the Jews rejected, and Pilate affirmed, was and is a fact.

    Crown the King

    John 19:1-3

    In an attempt to sway the people away from crucifying an innocent man, Pilate had Jesus severely scourged. A brutal punishment, scourging would often strip skin off the back of the punished.

    After the flogging, a crown mocking royalty and victory was thrust upon Jesus' head and a purple robe was placed on His shoulders. The final mockery was the slapping of His face and the words of false honor - "Hail, King of the Jews!"

    Once more irony paints the scene. What was done in contempt and derision is due Him and will be done in the future (Rev. 1:7; Phil. 2:9-11).

    Honor the King

    John 19:14-16

    The crowds could not be persuaded. In the text, John wrote seven times that Pilate "went out" and "went in" trying to prevent an injustice. Finally, he exclaimed, "Here is your king!" In the conflict between Pilate the Roman judge and Pilate the politician, the politician won.

    "We have no king but Caesar!" was the most ludicrous protestation of loyalty coming from the Jewish leadership. Their scriptures affirmed no king but God. They rejected the very sovereignty of God

    In contrast to the irony and despair of the situation, Jesus' crucifixion was not the defeat of a messianic impostor, but the divine victory of the Messiah.

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by John Pond | with 0 comments



    Family Bible Study lesson for March 20: Jesus: Our Sacrifice : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by John Pond

    Family Bible Study lesson for March 20: Jesus: Our Sacrifice : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    Family Bible Study lesson for March 20: Jesus: Our Sacrifice

    By John Pond
    Focal Passages: John 19:28-37; Hebrews 9:22-26

    Jurgen Moltmann wrote that the cross "is the test of everything which deserves to be called Christian." The cross refutes everything and judges everything. It is at the cross that we encounter freedom and divine hope. It is the place of efficacious sacrifice, accomplished "once-for-all" for the sins of all people.

    The events that took place on the cross were a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. They were the explicit actualization of the actions and articulations of God, bringing to humanity His redemptive hope in the midst of sin's crippling helplessness.

    Jesus' perfect work

    John 19:28-30

    John, writing as an eyewitness, described Jesus' death on a Roman cross. Jesus had suffered unbearable abuse and excruciating pain from multiple beatings and the subsequent nailing to and hanging upon a rugged cross-timber.

    Jesus hung there near death. Earlier, according to the other gospel writers he had refused the drugged wine to keep His mind clear and focused. But now, suffering from massive loss of blood, extreme nervous tension and exposure to the weather, Jesus displayed His humanity and asked for drink. "I thirst!" He exclaimed with a parched throat.

    The soldiers brought Him a drink of their own cheap wine placed on a sponge held up by a branch of hyssop (hyssop was used by the Jews for sprinkling the blood of the lamb on their doorposts during Passover - Exodus 12:22).

    With the brief taste of refreshment, Jesus cried out with a shout of victory, "It is finished!" His life was finished; God's mighty work of redemption had now reached its consummation. The term He used means simply "the debt is paid in full." Jesus accomplished "perfectly" all that God had required for the sacrifice of mankind's sin.

    Previously, Jesus had stated, "The Son of Man has no place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20; Luke 9:58)." Now in the final moments of His earthly life, He bowed His head and died. The strife was over and the battle was won.

    Jesus the perfect Lamb

    John 19:31-37

    Much of the gospel accounts of Jesus' life, death and resurrection are ironic. John wrote that because of the special significance of the day, "the preparation day" for the Sabbath and Passover, the Jewish religious leaders asked for the crucified bodies to be taken down. According to their law, no body was to be left hanging on a tree over night. Such action would pollute the land and make it unfit for the holy celebration. They did not want to pollute the land, but instead had no qualms about polluting themselves with handling a dead body.

    Roman custom left bodies hanging to serve as a warning to all who would transgress their laws; thus special permission was required for their removal.

    As an eyewitness, John pointed out several details that exemplify Jesus' sacrifice as the perfect Passover Lamb. First, to hasten the death of the crucified, the bones of the legs were broken in order to suffocate the victim. Jesus had died, thus His legs needed not be broken (just like the paschal lamb - Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalms 34:20). Second, in order to verify the death of Jesus, one of the soldiers pierced His side. According to John "blood and water came out." Jesus literally died of a broken heart, ruptured by this extreme physical and emotional experience (see Zechariah 12:10). The pericardium (a sac containing a water-like substance) was pierced by the soldier's spear. Jesus, God's perfect Passover Lamb actually died.

    Jesus the perfect Substitute

    Hebrews 9:22-26

    Leviticus states, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement ...(NRSV)." Forgiveness is a costly thing. It is not a casual word given thoughtlessly; it is an expensive item that cost the very blood of an innocent victim - in the Old Testament, an unblemished lamb; in the New Testament, the precious blood of Jesus. "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." There is nothing more serious than the cost of forgiving sin. It takes shed blood.

    Fortunately, the perfect sacrifice of the perfect lamb - Jesus - perfectly and sufficiently "once-for-all" paid for the sins and impurities of earth (9:23-24). His blood was shed for our redemption. It was shed to heal sin-infected life and to give new life to all who will believe.

    No longer do we need a temporary sacrifice for our sin; "Jesus paid it all!"

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by John Pond | with 0 comments



    Formations lesson for March 13: Living in the Spirit : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by Jeffrey Wisdom

    Formations lesson for March 13: Living in the Spirit : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    Formations lesson for March 13: Living in the Spirit

    By Jeffrey Wisdom
    Focal passage: Romans 8:6-11

    "Life is a game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, words and deeds return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy" artist and author Florence Scovel Shinn wrote.

    Plumb line

    I recently asked a class of adult learners to define the word ethics. Their responses ranged from subjective moral-isms, to quotes for social acceptance, to truisms of political correctness. Ethics, however, is none of those. Ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with right and wrong behavior. Ethics implies a standard of judgment that asks for an existing norm that defines what is right and what is wrong.

    For Christians, that norm is God - He is the plumb line by which all things are measured. "And the Lord said unto me, 'Amos, what seest thou?' And I said a plumb line. Then said the Lord, 'Behold, I will set a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel: I will not pass by them any more'" (Amos 7:7-8). God's standard is the straight way and the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13-14).

    In the Spirit

    Rom. 8:6-9

    Likewise, there are only two ways to live spiritually - in the Spirit or outside of it. To argue otherwise marginalizes both. "To be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace ... But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man [has] not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Rom. 8: 6, 9).

    Living ethically

    Rom. 8:10

    Though scripture holds to a black and white relationship with God, it also acknowledges the difficulty one faces when trying to live an ethical or spiritually disciplined life. "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin: but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (v.10).

    In a perfect world, things would be clearly right and wrong. That world, however, disappeared years ago (Gen. 2-3). In its place is an inherent struggle to live a life clearly for God. It is not a matter of moralisms and truisms, but of the inward struggles of one's conscience and faith. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not: but what I hate, that I do" (7:15).

    Plumb by grace

    Rom. 8:11

    Understanding that you and I will always struggle to live a life that plumbs, how can we confidently express our relationship with God? We do so by His grace that constantly reanimates our lives and our relationship with Him. "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, that He raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (8:11).

    Our lives, however ethical, will always come up short of God's measurement. It is in our nature. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (3:23). Each of us will struggle with faith when it becomes marginalized - slipping off the path of right.

    In the struggle to live rightly, remember that there is right and there is wrong, and there is God's grace. "Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life" (6:4). That, in part, is what "living in the Spirit" means.

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by Jeffrey Wisdom | with 0 comments



    Formations lesson for March 20: Living like Jesus : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by Jeffrey Wisdom

    Formations lesson for March 20: Living like Jesus : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    Formations lesson for March 20: Living like Jesus

    By Jeffrey Wisdom
    Focal passage: Ephesians 4:25-5:2

    One of the strongest relationships the gospel provides is that of brother and sister. Through Christ, individuals become a part of a larger family. "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, is My brother, sister and mother" (Matt. 12:50 NIV). A brother or a sister is a description of the intimacy that Christ's life and death affords us. Individually we are siblings. Together we are the family of God and the Church of Jesus.

    Though Christians often refer to themselves as brothers or sisters, sometimes the relationship that lies beneath the title is forgotten. Like any relationship of merit, friendship must be established before intimacy can be claimed. Friendship is the foundation Jesus uses to support the relationships embedded in the family of God. "You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father, I have made known to you" (John. 15:14-15 NIV).

    With friendship being so important, why is it so difficult to master? For one, friendships require so much of us.

    Henri Nouwen said, "When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in a hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend, that is a friend who cares."

    Christ-like friendship

    Eph. 4:25-27

    Friendship requires Christ-likeness. That alone is enough to make most friend-wannabes quit. It is easier to be unforgiving than it is to work through a friendship: especially if that friendship has a history. Friendships do not ask you to ignore the dynamics that they create; they simply ask that you do not let those dynamics get in the way. "Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

    Graceful friendship

    Eph. 4:28, 31-32

    Second, friendships are difficult to master because they need to be fundamentally rooted in grace (4:28, 31-32). "Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him toil, working what is honest with [his] hands, that he may have to distribute to him that has need" (v. 28 Darby Translation). Verse 28 allows wrongs to be corrected. It implies that persons wronged in the relationship be willing to forgive. Without the capacity for forgiveness, no relationship will survive.

    Friendship will always be tested by the tendency to blame someone for something and a need for forgiveness. "You who pretend to be someone you are not, first take the big piece of wood out of your own eye. Then you can see better to take the small piece of wood out of your brother's eye" (Matt. 7:5 New Life Version).

    Encouraging friendship

    Eph. 4:29

    Another aspect of friendship difficult to master is encouragement. George Matthews Adams wrote, "There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and our thoughts, as well as our success."

    Encouragement is a thousand little things and differs from one person to another. Whatever encouragement is, it is a well-spoken word, or it is a well-done deed, that brings out the best in someone else. "[Do not] use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them" (Eph. 4:29 New Living Translation).

    When you fail to master the traits of friendship - Christ-likeness, grace and forgiveness, and encouragement - you fail the Master. "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (v. 30 NIV). Whether you call someone your brother or sister as a Christian, if you are not first his or her friend, then you are neither friend nor family.

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by Jeffrey Wisdom | with 0 comments



    Beer bragging backfires : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    February 25 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

    Beer bragging backfires : Friday, Feb. 25, 2005
    Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

    Beer bragging backfires

    By Tony W. Cartledge
    BR Editor

    A Feb. 17 press release we received from "The Beer Institute" seeks to highlight the positive economic impact of the beer industry in North Carolina.

    It fails.

    Oh, some positive numbers are there. The report cites a study claiming that beer-related businesses contribute $3.15 billion to the state's economy, and that the industry supports 37,296 jobs paying $1.02 billion in wages, along with more than $700 million in federal, state and local taxes. Of course, most of those dollars do not represent money coming into the state, but money generated by beer sales to state residents. The report does not mention the amount of profit being shipped out to the big breweries' corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, Boulder, and elsewhere.

    The report, like most public relations pieces, is painted as good news. Compared to a study of data collected in 2001, beer industry numbers from 2004 "show significant growth in all categories," it said.

    "We are extremely proud to be a significant contributor to the North Carolina economy," said David Rehr, president of the National Beer Wholesalers' Association. "More than simply providing a refreshing beverage enjoyed by 90 million adults, we are businesses that have a national economic impact, and at the same time positively touch nearly every community in North Carolina, providing jobs for our fellow citizens and tax revenues for our towns and cities."

    The beer industry touches every community in North Carolina, all right, but "positively" is hardly the right word. Beer drinking impacts our citizens with far more than jobs and tax revenues.

    There are other numbers to consider.

    The report does not mention the 554 people who died on North Carolina highways as a result of drunk driving accidents in 2003 - 36 percent of all fatalities.

    Nor does the Beer Institute mention the many thousands of people who were injured in accidents involving alcohol use, many of them with serious disabilities or scars that will last a lifetime.

    Nor does the release mention the impact of death and injury on family members who may not have been in the crash, but are affected by it every day.

    Of course, there is no mention of the thousands of young lives sent spiraling into alcoholism in large part because beer is so easily available.

    While touting the economic significance of beer sales in North Carolina, the Beer Institute report completely ignores the negative economic impact of its industry. A report commissioned by the National Highway Safety and Transportation Board (NHTSA) and cited on its web site (www.nhtsa.dot.gov) estimates that "alcohol-related crashes in North Carolina cost the public an estimated $3.8 billion in 1999, including $1.7 billion in monetary costs and almost $2.1 billion in quality of life losses."

    "The societal costs of alcohol-related crashes in North Carolina averaged $1.20 per drink consumed," according to the same report - and "people other than the drinking driver paid $0.80 per drink."

    Granted, not all alcohol-related crashes involve beer. Hard liquor and wine also contribute to the problem, but a look in the cooler at any convenience store makes it clear that beer predominates.

    The NHSTA statistics cited above speak only to the economic impact of drunk driving, and that alone more than offsets any positive impact the economy gets from beer sales.

    But, one should also consider other factors. How much lost productivity do non-alcohol related businesses suffer because of alcohol use by employees? How many jobs are lost each year due to alcoholism? How many families suffer deprivation and abuse from alcoholic family members, in part because beer and other alcoholic drinks are relatively inexpensive and readily available? How much do taxpayers spend on prevention, law enforcement, prison expenses and legal system costs due to drunk drivers?

    In my mind, there is absolutely no question that the economic and societal costs of beer drinking far outweigh any positive impact - and that's without even considering the moral side of the issue.

    What can be done? Studies cited by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa51.htm) have shown that raising the price of alcohol is a clear deterrent to all but the most determined drinkers, and it particularly reduces binge drinking.

    In his proposed budget Governor Mike Easley called for a large increase in the state's pitifully low cigarette tax, and for some increases in the sales tax on liquor.

    What we need even more is a significant increase in state excise taxes on beer and wine. The current tax of about five cents per bottle or can of beer has not been increased since 1969 - 36 years. An inflation adjustment alone would raise the tax rate five-fold to 25 cents.

    The tax on wine is $.79 per gallon for wine with less than 17 percent alcohol and $.91 per gallon above 17 percent. A tax that acknowledges the true costs of alcohol-related issues could plug much of the state's budget deficit - or cut alcohol consumption, both of which are desirable outcomes.

    According to a 2001 report by the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center (www.ncjustice.org/btc/010601report.pdf), excise taxes on alcohol provided more than six percent of the state's general fund in 1971. In 2004, it was just 1.3 percent.

    It's not too much to ask those who choose to drink alcohol to pay a larger portion of the toll that alcohol takes on society. A hefty tax increase on their favorite beverage would be a good place to start.

    TWC

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - Contact information for all N.C. House and Senate members is available at www.nc.gov.)

    2/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



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